ALLENSTOWN, N.H. — Debra Horn, 11, resided with her family in Allenstown and attended sixth grade at her local school. Small in stature, she stood 4 feet, 4 inches tall, and weighed about 50 pounds. She had wavy brown hair styled in a pixie cut made famous by 1960s fashion model Twiggy and actress Mia Farrow in the classic film “Rosemary’s Baby.”
Both of Debra’s parents worked full-time jobs. Kenneth Horn Sr., 34, was a self-employed mechanic, while Myrtle Horn, 34, worked as a secretary. Debra has an older brother, Kenneth Horn, Jr.
On Jan. 29, 1969, the morning started as a typical school day for Debra and her brother. They arose early to get ready for school. Debra donned a gold corduroy jumper, white turtleneck sweater, gold knee-length socks, and silver earrings. She slipped a gold ring with an oval pink stone onto her finger and fastened a watch to her wrist. Then she and her brother started walking to the school bus stop.
Debra slipped and fell on the ice along the way. Her brother helped her return home, and she complained of pain to her parents. Therefore, they gave her permission to stay home from school. Debra grabbed a blanket and rested her sore body on the couch.
Debra’s brother caught the bus to school, and her parents left for work, leaving Debra home alone. Her family never saw her alive again.
Debra’s parents returned home at noon and found the front door wide open. Early reports stated only the back door was open. The girl’s blanket was on the couch, and her coat and boots were still in the home. Yet, Debra had vanished.
Her parents knew someone had abducted her right away, but the police were hesitant, treating the case as a missing person. Debra’s father said a rut in the driveway’s snow suggested a vehicle might have gotten stuck there.
Myrtle Lee made a public appeal to the kidnapper for the safe return of her daughter. Police conducted a door-to-door inquiry in the neighborhood, but no one had seen the missing girl.
An extensive air and ground search ensued. As many as 800 searchers searched for Debra, including 18 Manchester Civil Air Patrol unit members. The team found no trace of the missing girl. The aerial search covered the 7,500-acre Bear Brook State Park’s region. The search crew utilized snow vehicles through the woods while divers scoured the icy Suncook River. Constant snowfall made it hard for the search crew to continue searching for the missing girl.
On Jan. 30, 1969, police dogs alerted officers to a few blood spots along Route 28 about two miles from Debra’s home. The Nashua Telegraph stated, “cells from either the urinary tract or respiratory tract were discovered in the blood,” later tested and found to be Type B. However, they were unsure of Debra’s blood type.
A family friend from Boston put up a $10,000 reward for the safe return of Debra, plus another $10,000 raised by other means. Shortly after, Angelo Navarro, 35, of Manchester, tried to collect the $20,000, even though he did not have the missing girl.
Navarro had contacted newscaster Ed Williams of WMUR-TV in Manchester. Williams offered to be the liaison with the family if someone had the child and wanted to collect the $10,000 provided by the family friend with no questions asked. Navarro said he wanted the entire $20,000. He demanded someone drop off the money at the rear door of a Manchester store at 10:45 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 7, 1969. Instead, the police arrested Navarro and charged him with attempted blackmail.
Months went by with no sign of the missing girl, and hope she would be found alive had dwindled.
On Aug. 10, 1969, David Pearson, 26, John Marra, 19, & Vincent Rinaldi, 17, stopped to investigate an abandoned 1952 Plymouth car situated about 1,000 feet from Duaine Steinhoff’s home in Sandown. The men opened the trunk and found human skeletal remains inside. They initially thought the body was a dummy but notified the authorities after realizing it was not.
The remains were unclothed, and the police never found Debra’s clothing in the car or the immediate area. The bones were mainly bare except for some hair.
Steinhoff, 44, had abandoned the vehicle four years before. The Steinhoff property was roughly 30 miles southeast of Allenstown and four miles off Route 121A, the only state highway running through Sandown.
The abandoned vehicle was about 200 feet off North Road on the only dirt road that did not go into a driveway, the Portsmouth Herald reported at the time. The car was visible from the road but not Steinhoff’s house because a small hill separating the two spots. During and after the two February snowstorms, the vehicle was not visible. As much as three feet of snow covered the area. Furthermore, the acreage around the car was heavy with pine trees, and a thick layer of pine needles blanketed the forest floor.
Steinhoff had numerous abandoned cars on his property, and police searched all of them but found no other clues in the investigation.
Police believed the killer placed Debra’s body in the trunk shortly after abducting her. With the remains still in the car, a wrecker from the Fremont Garage transported the vehicle to Derry.
Boston University professor and forensic medicine specialist Dr. George Katsis arrived in Derry to collect the remains. He found Debra’s ring in a spot near her hand. As officials removed the body from the vehicle, Katsis found one of her earrings underneath. Her parents identified both items as Debra’s. The Horn family dentist later identified the remains through dental records as Debra Horn.
Authorities later removed the abandoned and placed it in another locked garage for a complete inspection.
Upon examining Debra’s skull, Katis found what appeared to be a traumatic injury to the back of the head. He could not determine whether it resulted from the fall or she had been hit on the head. Although he said the latter was likely. He could not rule a cause of death due to decomposition.
The finding of Debra’s remains left no doubt that someone had abducted and killed her. However, with little physical evidence and no witnesses to the abduction, the case went cold and remains unsolved 52 years later.
Two other young girls were abducted and killed near Allenstown.
Joanne Dunham, 15, vanished from her school bus stop around 7:15 a.m. on June 11, 1968. The stop was about a half-mile from her home at Raiche Mobile Homes in Charlestown. At 4:15 p.m. the following day, a farmer named David Haynes and his dog assisted in the search for Joanne. Haynes found her fully-clothed body on a roped-off dirt road on Quaker City Road in Unity, about six miles from where she was abducted and four miles east of Route 12. Joanne had been sexually assaulted and died from asphyxiation. She was a student at Fall Mountain High School in Langdon.
In downtown Franklin, Kathy Lynn Gloddy, 13, was last seen on Nov. 21, 1971, running an errand for her sister, Janet. Searchers found her body at 1 p.m. the next day in the woods off Chance Pond Road. An autopsy revealed Kathy had been raped and strangled. She also suffered severe blunt force injuries to the abdomen, head, and neck, according to WMUR. Officials said any of these injuries could have been fatal. She attended St. Mary’s Elementary School.
Both the Dunham and Gloddy cases remain unsolved today.
True Crime Diva’s Thoughts
I think Debra’s case could be related to the Dunham and Gloddy cases. All three girls were close in age, and their bodies were found in wooded areas within a 50-mile perimeter of Concord. Furthermore, all three girls were alone when they vanished.
However, considering Debra was the only one taken from her home, I feel like she knew her killer, and that person knew of her being home alone.
Another scenario would be that someone saw her fall on the ice and watched her parents and brother leave.
If it were a salesman, he might have knocked on the door, she answered and then he asked to speak to her parents. She told him they were working, and he snatched her.
The crime does speak more of an opportunity one, I think, regardless of whether she knew her killer or not. And one that was committed by someone local who knew Allenstown and the area where the remains were found. They also knew that Steinhoff kept abandoned old cars. I wonder if police ever looked into Steinhoff or any of his associates.
Whoever killed her did not want her body found. That is why he placed them in the trunk of the abandoned car. No one had touched that car in four years.
The remains were unclothed, and authorities never found Debra’s clothes. The killer probably sexually assaulted her and disposed of the clothing somewhere else or by burning them.
The killer might have kept her alive for a while; however, I’m guessing he raped her and then murdered her. That is what the police also believed in 1969.